How do markets collapse? The techno-politics of the rise and fall of carbon markets

Abstract: The crisis currently facing the market for Certified Emission Reduction credits (CER, also known as carbon credits) is explained commonly by difficulties to do with the expiry of the Kyoto agreement, the overall framework for trading carbon credits. In this paper we challenge the view that the CER market is in crisis only because of political reasons. Using archival material we analyse the accreditation process of carbon offsetting methodologies and explore how the technological discourse surrounding the measurement methods introduced and embedded political vulnerabilities into the organisational structure of the market, vulnerabilities that eventually led to its demise. We develop theory that necessitates technology as part of the explanation of how markets come about and why they fail. Our paper contributes to the literatures in political sociology and economic sociology about the political infrastructures that underpin markets. The paper should provide food for thought for those policy makers who are currently attempting to introduce new climate markets or redesign existing ones.